The question of "How do I know I'm ready to sell cakes" comes up a lot on online cake forums and facebook cake groups. People start to get feedback from friends and family saying "you need to go into business" and they actually believe them. So they start thinking that yeah, they should sell cakes...but they're not sure their cakes are really good enough.
In the 18 years I've been doing cakes, I've only had a few people call to ask if I can fix a cake that someone else made. They're usually driving to Richmond from somewhere else, and something happens to the cake in transit. Inevitably, though, it was a cake made by someone who had just started selling cakes, or who did it part-time, or who sold them "on the side." My general response is that they'll probably need to go buy another cake, this time from someone who knows what they're doing (although I don't phrase it exactly like that.)
I've also heard a lot of stories recently from venues that more brides are bringing in cakes made by family or friends and skipping a professional cake. That might be good for their budgets, but the venue coordinators tell me that it isn't good for the cake. Here's one story from a venue coordinator who also works as an off-site caterer:
"We catered a wedding a few weeks ago where a friend of the
couple made the wedding cake. She brought it with her in pieces and
finished it in the house. As I walked by her while she was working on
it, I felt fear. A little while later, I went to see what it looked
like and my fear grew. It was an avalanche waiting to happen. It
appeared that the cake person had left and that meant that I would
need to move the cake and I wasn't looking forward to that. I later
saw her in the parking lot reading a book so then I thought I was
safe and that she would move the cake.
"Reception begins and dinner is over and the melting avalanche of a
cake was still in the house...and the cake lady was one of the guests
so she was still there and making no effort to move the cake. So
finally, I got two of my girls to walk on either side of me while I
moved the cake (so they could catch it if it fell). No sooner I set
the cake down on the cake table, the cake lady runs over to me to
shake my hand and says 'You did an incredible job moving it! There
was NO way I was going to move that thing out here!' and then
proceeds to tell me how hard it was going to be to cut it....because
it was full of fruit curd. I could have served it with a spoon."
The question of whether your cakes are good enough to sell isn't the right question to ask, in my opinion. There's a customer for everything, so even a crappy cake that falls apart will find a buyer if you charge low enough.
The question should be whether you know that your decorating skills match your baking skills, and that you have the skill needed to build a solidly constructed cake that can be moved without sliding and collapsing. If you're not sure about any of that, you're not ready. If you have to go on an online forum and try to get the opinion of random strangers, you're not ready. If you can't deliver a cake without worrying about it falling apart on the way, you're not ready. And if you don't realize that the business of cakes is much more than just decorating them, you're not ready.
Do yourself, potential customers, and other bakers who will be receiving phone calls to fix your mistakes a favor. If you have to question your own ability, don't sell cakes. Keep practicing until you DON'T have to ask online whether people think you're "good enough." You'll know you're ready when you don't have to ask.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, online cake supplies at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com